Data Sources, Containers, Cloud, and More: What’s New in ATT&CK v9?

Jamie Williams
Apr 29 · 6 min read

By Jamie Williams (MITRE), Jen Burns (MITRE), Cat Self (MITRE), and Adam Pennington (MITRE)

As we promised in the ATT&CK 2021 Roadmap, today marks our April release (ATT&CK v9) and we’re thrilled to share the additions with you, and how to use them. So, what changed with this release?

  • Updated: A revamp of data sources (Episode 1 of 2)
  • Updated: Some refreshes to macOS techniques
  • New: Consolidation of IaaS platforms
  • New: The Google Workspace platform
  • New: ATT&CK for Containers (and not the kind on boats)

This is in addition to our usual updates and additions to Techniques, Groups, and Software, which you can find more details about on our release notes. Notably this release includes 16 new Groups, 67 new pieces of Software, with updates to 36 Groups and 51 Software entries.

Making Sense of the New Data Sources: Episode I

As much as we love tracking and nerding out over adversary behaviors, one of the most important goals of ATT&CK is to bridge offensive actions with potential defensive countermeasures. We strive to achieve this goal by tagging each (sub-)technique with defensive-focused fields/properties, such as what data to collect (data sources) and how to analyze that data in order to potentially identify specific behaviors (detections).

Many of you in the community have made great use of ATT&CK data sources ¹ ² ³, but we heard from you and recognized the opportunity for improvement. Our goal for the new data sources is to better connect the defensive data in ATT&CK with how operational defenders see and work these challenges.

The initial changes are a revamp of the data sources values, which were previously text strings without additional details or descriptions.

These high-level concepts were a helpful starting point, but along with issues regarding consistency, this level of detail didn’t effectively answer “Am I collecting the right data?

Redefining Data Sources

Prior to ATT&CK’s v9 release, data sources only highlighted a specific sensor or logging system (e.g., Process Monitoring or PowerShell Logs). What we were trying to capture with this approach was the defender’s requirement to collect data about processes and executed (PowerShell) commands. However, while these clues often directed us to “where we should collect data”, they didn’t always provide details on “what data values are necessary to collect?

Details on what to collect can be important for mapping from the framework to defensive operations. For example, Process Monitoring can take many forms depending on what technologies you are using and what data about a process is needed (ex: do you need command-line parameters, inter-process interactions, and/or API functions executed by the process?). The same applies to PowerShell logs, which can be collected from a variety of sources (event logs, trace providers, third-party tools).The specifics of what exact data were often only highlighted in the additional context provided by the detection section of the technique.

With this in mind, we redefined data sources to focus on answering “what type of data do we need?” Our new list of data sources describe the types of objects our detection data needs to observe. Examples that are very commonly used across techniques include process, file, command, and network traffic.

Building on this, we added data components to further define specific needed elements within each data source. Going back to the OS Credential Dumping: LSASS Memory (T1003.001) example, we can see how the additional context helps us identify exactly what relevant data we need. Illustrating this with the Sysmon tool, we can quickly map our exact needs for process data to corresponding operational telemetry.

We reviewed and remapped both data sources and data components for all of the Enterprise matrix, including the Cloud and our newest Containers platform (more details about those matrices in the New and Improved Cloud section). Featured below are an example of the new Data Source: Data Component values that replaced the previous text.

These values fulfill the same objective of directing us towards “where we should collect data,” as well as providing the added context of “what specific values are necessary to collect.” As defenders, we can operationalize these Data Source: Data Component pairings as part of our detection engineering process by:

1. Using data sources to identify relevant sensors/logs
(i.e., where and how do/can I collect data about processes?)

2. Using data components to identify relevant events/fields/values
(i.e., what data about processes is provided by each sensor/log and how can these values be used to identify adversary behaviors?)

We’ll add additional details behind each data source when we release data source objects in October, but for now the data sources on the ATT&CK site link to our GitHub repository, where you can read more about each one. As always, we invite feedback and contributions (and a special thanks to those who have already contributed).

For more background about the data sources work, check out our previously published two-part blog series ¹ ² and/or watch us discuss and demonstrate the potential power of these improvements!

What’s New with Mac

The community was at the heart of macOS improvements featured in this release. We collaboratively updated several techniques, rescoped others, and added macOS specific malware. Our focus was primarily on Persistence and Execution, building in red team walkthroughs and code examples for a deeper look into the sub-techniques. Along with the rest of Enterprise, we also refactored macOS data sources to start building out visibility for defenders. We’ve only scratched the surface and are excited to continue enhancing and updating macOS and Linux content targeted at our October release.

New and Improved Cloud

As we highlighted in the 2021 roadmap, this release features the consolidation of the former AWS, Azure, and GCP platforms into a single IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) platform. In addition to community feedback favoring consolidation, this update creates a more inclusive domain that represents all Cloud Service Providers.

We also refactored data sources for Cloud platforms, with a slightly different flavor than the host-based data sources. Specifically for IaaS, we wanted to align more with the events and APIs involved in detections instead of just focusing on the log sources (e.g., AWS CloudTrail logs, Azure Activity Logs). With that goal in mind, the new Cloud data sources include Instance, Cloud Storage, and others that align with terminology found in events within Cloud environments.

An ATT&CK for Cloud bonus in this release is the addition of the Google Workspace platform. Since ATT&CK already covers Office 365, we wanted to ensure that users of Google’s productivity tools were also able to map similar applicable adversary behaviors to ATT&CK. We hope that this platform addition is helpful to the community, and would appreciate any feedback or insights.

Container Updates (that don’t include the Suez Canal)

We’re also excited to publish ATT&CK for Containers in this release! An ATT&CK research team partnered with the Center for Threat-Informed Defense to develop this contribution to ATT&CK. You can find more information about the ATT&CK for Containers research project and the new matrix in their blog post.

What’s Next

We hope you’re as excited as we are about v9 and are looking forward to the rest of the updates and new capabilities we have planned for 2021. October’s release should include episode 2 of data sources, featuring descriptive objects, as well as updates to ATT&CK for ICS and Mobile. We’ll also continue enhancing coverage of macOS and Linux techniques, so now is a great time to let us know if you have contributions or feedback on one of those platforms. We may have some additional improvements to announce in the coming months, but we stand by our promise of nothing as disruptive as the new tactics and sub-techniques from 2020.

We look forward to connecting with you on email, Twitter, or Slack.

©2021 The MITRE Corporation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Approved for public release. Distribution unlimited 21–00706–2.

MITRE ATT&CK®

This is the official blog for MITRE ATT&CK®, the…

MITRE ATT&CK®

This is the official blog for MITRE ATT&CK®, the MITRE-developed, globally-accessible knowledge base of adversary tactics and techniques based on real-world observations. The full website is located at https://attack.mitre.org.

Jamie Williams

Written by

ATT&CK® and ATT&CK Accessories

MITRE ATT&CK®

This is the official blog for MITRE ATT&CK®, the MITRE-developed, globally-accessible knowledge base of adversary tactics and techniques based on real-world observations. The full website is located at https://attack.mitre.org.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store